Moroccan designer's embroidery school revives fading art

In this photo dated Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, a pattern is displayed next to a half-finished cloth, at an informal school run by Moroccan fashion designer Fadila El Gadi, in Sale, near Rabat, Morocco. A globally successful Moroccan fashion designer returned to her hometown and founded an unusual sewing school aimed at helping poor, troubled children find a path, in a country where youth unemployment is high and the lure of extremism lurks. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

Moroccan fashion designer Fadila El Gadi has founded a school of last chances, both for the students and for the fading art of embroidery that they are learning stitch by stitch

SALE, Morocco — It is a school of last chances, both for its students and for the fading art that they are learning, stitch by stitch.

Each of the 13 young Moroccans now studying under fashion designer Fadila El Gadi had dropped out of school, whether through boredom or academic troubles. But now they willingly spend nine hours a day in this free program, learning the traditional art of Moroccan embroidery — as well as the traditional academic subjects they once left behind.

Six girls and seven boys, ranging in age from 13 to 18, start the day at 7 a.m., taking turns making breakfast for the group. The day ends at 4 p.m. The training is expected to last two years, at the end of which the hope is full-time work.

Bent over an embroidery frame, 18-year-old Nadia is among El Gadi's most gifted students and is already making a little money outside class.

"I'm comfortable in this field. I would love to be able to do it professionally like Fadila," she said.

El Gadi launched the school in her hometown of Sale, a city neighboring the capital, Rabat, because "I haven't forgotten where I came from."

Embroidery made El Gadi's career and she hopes the same will happen with the children at her school. Sandra Charteau, a professional embroiderer, comes twice a week to teach — although Charteau cannot speak Moroccan Arabic, the children are learning French and eventually English as part of their lesson plan.

El Gadi hopes the children will ultimately be able to establish themselves, either as artisans or in haute couture.

"Demand is high for craftsmen. I myself am always looking for trained staff for my own studio," she said. "If we managed to have funding so they could each have their own little workshops, that would be really amazing."

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